Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Islam’s Other god

[Part 2]

Analyzing the Quran’s Implicit Deification of Muhammad

Sam Shamoun and Jochen Katz

Despite the Quran’s explicit and emphatic position that Muhammad was a weak mortal, testifying of his frailty, fallibility and sinfulness (see Part 1), there are other verses which laid the foundation for the later Islamic deification of Muhammad. The Quran makes certain claims and ascribes specific qualities to Muhammad which later Muslims capitalized on in order to justify their devotion and worship.

For instance, a seemingly simple and harmless passage like the following which says that Muhammad was the first Muslim:

Say, verily my prayers, and my worship, and my life, and my death [are dedicated] unto God, the Lord of all creatures: He hath no companion. This have I been commanded: I am the first Moslem. S. 6:162-163 Sale

Laid a foundation for later Muslim belief that Muhammad was actually the first prophet created:

Allah said: "And I have taken you to Myself as My beloved and intimate friend (habiban wa khalila)." The narrator said: It is written in the Torah: Habibullah "Allah’s Beloved."

I have sent you for all people without exception, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner.

I have expanded your breast for you and relieved you of your burden and exalted your name as I am not mentioned except you are mentioned with Me.

I have made your community the best Community ever brought out for the benefit of mankind.

I have made your Community in truth the first and the last of all Communities.

I have made public address (al-khutba) impermissible for your Community unless they first witness that you are My servant and Messenger.

I have placed certain people in your Community with Evangels for hearts.

I have made you the first Prophet created and the last one sent and the first one heard in My court.

I have given you Seven of the Oft-Repeated which I gave to no other Prophet before you.

I have given you the last verses of Sura al-Baqara which constitute a treasure from under My Throne which I gave to no other Prophet before you.

I have given you the Kawthar.

I have given you eight lots: Islam, Emigration (al-hijra), Jihad, Charity (al-sadaqa), Fasting Ramadan, Ordering Good, and Forbidding Evil; and the day I created the heavens and the earth I made obligatory upon you and upon your Community fifty prayers: therefore establish them, you and your Community. (Al-Sayyid Muhammad Ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki, Islamic Doctrines & Beliefs: The Prophets in Barzakh, The Hadith of Isra’ and Mi‘raj, The Immense Merits of Al-Sham, The Vision of Allah, translation and notes by Dr. Gibril Foaud Haddad [As-Sunna Foundation of America, 1999 second edition], pp. 88-90; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Narrated AbuHurayrah
When Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) was asked when the office of Prophet had been established for him, he replied, "When Adam had not yet had his spirit joined to his body.
Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1516 - ALIM CD-ROM Version)

And the following passages:

Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned towards him; truly He turns, and is All-compassionate. S. 2:37

They said, 'Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if Thou dost not forgive us, and have mercy upon us, we shall surely be among the lost.' S. 7:23

Were also used as the basis for the following narration:

Al-Bayhaqi cited the following hadith in his book "Dala'il an-Nubuwwah" (Signs of Prophethood): Narrated 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab: the Prophet said: "When Adam committed the sin, he said to Allah, 'O My Lord, I ask You with reference to Muhammad to forgive me'. Allah said: 'O Adam! How did you know about Muhammad, for I have not yet created him?' Adam replied, 'O My Lord, when You created me, I looked up and saw inscribed on the legs of the Throne the words: There is no God worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger. I knew that you do not attach to Your name but the name of the dearest of Your Creation.' Allah said to Adam, 'You have spoken rightly, Adam. Muhammad is the dearest of My Creation. I have forgiven you because you asked by Muhammad. AND HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR HIM, I WOULD NOT HAVE CREATED YOU.'" This hadith was narrated by al-Hakim who also classified it as sahih (authentic). Among the transmitters of this hadith is 'Abd ar-Rahman Ibn Zayd Ibn Aslam. Al-Haythami said: "This hadith was reported by at-Dabarani and in its chain of transmitters are people I do not know. Al-Hakim was therefore mistaken in classifying this hadith as sahih because he himself criticised 'Abd ar-rahman Ibn Zayd Ibn Aslam in his book ad-Du'afa, so how can he state the authenticity of the hadith after he had criticised him?!!" (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Part 1, Surah Al-Fatiah Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 1 to 141, Abridged by Sheikh Nasib Ar-Rafa'i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London: Second Edition 1998], p. 107, fn 10; underline and capital emphasis ours)

As we shall see later on, other Muslims viewed the above narration as sound.

The Quran even claims that the very object of the prayers of Allah, his angels, and believers is none other than Muhammad:

Surely Allah and His angels pray on the Prophet; O you who believe! pray on him and salute him with a (becoming) salutation. Those who annoy Allah and his Apostle Allah has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment. S. 33:56-57

The above makes it rather obvious that Muhammad is the center of everyone’s attention, including Allah’s!

Allah exalts and expands Muhammad’s fame:

And during a part of the night wake up for its recitation - a supererogatory service for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to an exalted station. S. 17:79

Did We not expand thy breast for thee and lift from thee thy burden, the burden that weighed down thy back? Did We not exalt thy fame? S. 94:1-4

Sunni writer G.F. Haddad comments on the last passage:

"And [have We not] exalted thy fame?" (94:4) Mujahid said: "Meaning, every time I [Allah] am mentioned, you [Muhammad] are mentioned." Ibn Kathir mentioned it in his Tafsir. Al-Shafi`i narrated the same explanation from Ibn Abi Najih and so did Ibn `Ata' as cited by al-Nabahani in al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyya min al-Mawahib al-Laduniyya (p. 379). Al-Baydawi said in his Tafsir: "And what higher elevation than to have his name accompany His Name in the two phrases of witnessing, and to have his obedience equal His obedience?" (The Prophetic Title "Best of Creation", *, *, *, *)

We will have more to say about this in the following sections.

The Quran teaches that Allah went out of his way to please Muhammad:

And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased. S. 93:5

And thus We have made you a medium (just) nation that you may be the bearers of witness to the people and (that) the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you; and We did not make that which you would have to be the qiblah but that We might distinguish him who follows the Messenger from him who turns back upon his heels, and this was surely hard except for those whom Allah has guided aright; and Allah was not going to make your faith to be fruitless; most surely Allah is Affectionate, Merciful to the people. Indeed We see the turning of your face to heaven, so We shall surely turn you to a qiblah WHICH YOU SHALL LIKE; turn then your face towards the Sacred Mosque, and wherever you are, turn your face towards it, and those who have been given the Book most surely know that it is the truth from their Lord; and Allah is not at all heedless of what they do. S. 2:143-144

Allah went so far as to grant certain privileges to Muhammad which were forbidden to anyone else, such as having more than four wives or taking the wife of his adopted son in marriage:

And when you said to him to whom Allah had shown favor and to whom you had shown a favor: Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah's command shall be performed. S. 33:37

O Prophet! Lo! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war, and the daughters of thine uncle on the father's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the father's side, and the daughters of thine uncle on the mother's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the mother's side who emigrated with thee, and a believing woman if she give herself unto the Prophet and the Prophet desire to ask her in marriage - a privilege for thee only, not for the (rest of) believers - We are Aware of that which We enjoined upon them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess - that thou mayst be free from blame, for Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. S. 33:50 Pickthall

You may put off whom you please of them, and you may take to you whom you please, and whom you desire of those whom you had separated provisionally; no blame attaches to you; this is most proper, so that their eyes may be cool and they may not grieve, and that they should be pleased, all of them with what you give them, and Allah knows what is in your hearts; and Allah is Knowing, Forbearing. S. 33:51

According to the Hadith this verse was revealed to satisfy Muhammad’s sexual desires, permitting him to sleep with any woman who offered herself to him:

Narrated Aisha:
I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah's Apostle and I used to say, "Can a lady give herself (to a man)?" But when Allah revealed: "You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).' (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311)

'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: I felt jealous of the women who offered themselves to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Does the woman not feel shy of offering herself to a man? Then when Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed this: "You may defer any one of them you wish, and take to yourself any you wish; and if you desire any you have set aside (no sin is chargeable to you)" (xxxiii. 51), I ('A'isha.) said: It seems to me that your Lord hastens to satisfy your desire. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3453)

Hisham reported on the authority of his father that 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) used to say: Does the woman not feel shy of offering herself to a man? Then Allah the Exalted and Glorious revealed this verse:" You may defer any of them you wish and take to yourself any you wish." I ('A'isha said): It seems to me that your Lord hastens to satisfy your desire. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3454)

Allah even rebukes people for staying too long in Muhammad’s homes, or from desiring to marry his widows after him:

O you who believe! do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you for a meal, not waiting for its cooking being finished-- but when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken the food, then disperse-- not seeking to listen to talk; surely this gives the Prophet trouble, but he forbears from you, and Allah does not forbear from the truth And when you ask of them any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain; this is purer for your hearts and (for) their hearts; and it does not behove you that you should give trouble to the Messenger of Allah, nor that you should marry his wives after him ever; surely this is grievous in the sight of Allah. S. 33:53

The Quran goes so far as to make one’s entire salvation entirely dependant on obedience and devotion to Muhammad:

Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. S. 3:31 Pickthall

Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth as He made rulers those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them, and that He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange; they shall serve Me, not associating aught with Me; and whoever is ungrateful after this, these it is who are the transgressors. And keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and obey the Messenger, so that mercy may be shown to you. S. 24:55-56

Amazingly, after commanding believers to serve Allah and to refrain from associating others with him (v. 55), the Quran goes on to exhort them to obey Muhammad without bothering to mention the fact that they need to obey the Islamic god as well (v. 56). This places Muhammad on the level of Deity.

Here comes another shocking fact: Although there are places where Muslims are told to obey the Messenger without mentioning obedience to Allah, there is not a place that we are aware of where the Quran says "obey Allah" without also adding "and the/his messenger." This means that the Muslim scripture commands obedience to Muhammad more often than it demands obedience to Allah!

The Quran even asserts that Muhammad himself has the authority to declare permitted and forbidden, i.e. to make halal and haram. This was hinted at already in some verses above, but is even more explicit here:

Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden -- such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book -- until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled. S. 9:29

But no! by your Lord! they do not believe (in reality) until they make YOU a judge of that which has become a matter of disagreement among them, and then do not find any straitness in their hearts as to what YOU have decided and submit with entire submission. S. 4:65

And whatever Allah restored to His Messenger from them you did not press forward against it any horse or a riding camel but Allah gives authority to His messengers against whom He pleases, and Allah has power over all things. Whatever Allah has restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns, it is for Allah and for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, so that it may not be a thing taken by turns among the rich of you, and whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in retributing (evil): S. 59:6-7

Hence, the Quran states that a necessary aspect of obedience to Allah is to obey what Muhammad commands and refrain from what he forbids. Only then are people true believers if they entirely submit to him, Muhammad (4:65). It is combined with a threat that Allah will severely retribute those who do not "accept what Muhammad gives them, or stay away from what he forbids them" (59:7; 9:29).

What makes this all the more intriguing is what Muhammad had to say in regards to the exegesis of the following citation:

The Jews say, 'Ezra is the Son of God'; the Christians say, 'The Messiah is the Son of God.' That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them. God assail them! How they are perverted! They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from God, and the Messiah, Mary's son -- and they were commanded to serve but One God; there is no god but He; glory be to Him, above that they associate – S. 9:30-31

Regarding 9:31, Ibn Kathir noted that Muhammad supposedly said that the way Jews and Christians deified their rabbis and monks was by giving the latter their complete allegiance and obedience:

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and the Messiah, son of Maryam> [9:31].

Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded a Hadith via several chains of narration, from 'Adi bin Hatim, may Allah be pleased with him, who became a Christian during the time of Jahiliyyah. When the call of the Messenger of Allah reached his area, 'Adi ran away to Ash-Sham, and his sister and several of his people were captured. The Messenger of Allah freed his sister and gave her gifts. So she went to her brother and encouraged him to become Muslim and to go to the Messenger of Allah. 'Adi, who was one of the chiefs of his people (the tribe of Tai') and whose father, Hatim At-Ta’i, was known for his generosity, went to Al-Madinah. When the people announced his arrival, 'Adi went to the Messenger of Allah wearing a silver cross around his neck. The Messenger of Allah recited this Ayah;

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah>.

'Adi commented, "I said, ‘They did not worship them.’" The Prophet said,

((Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshiped them.)) …

<They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah…>

that the Christians and Jews obeyed their monks and rabbis in whatever they allowed or prohibited for them…" (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Surat Al-A'raf to the end of Surah Yunus, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition: May 2000], Volume 4, pp. 409-410; online edition; bold emphasis ours)

Yet Muhammad had no problem demanding this very same kind of blind obedience and allegiance from his own followers! If unquestioningly submitting to the whims and dictates of the rabbis and monks is an act of deification, an act of worship, then Muslims are worshiping and deifying Muhammad for giving him the very same kind of allegiance; and yet they do so on the express orders of Muhammad. Worse yet, according to Muhammad they are actually doing so on the express orders of Allah, which means that it is Allah who is demanding that Muslims deify and worship Muhammad!

Note: Nowhere in the Bible do we find the command to obey rabbis or monks or even prophets in the way that obedience is demanded for Muhammad in the Quran. The Quran goes vastly beyond anything that is found in the Jewish or Christian scriptures.

To prevent a possible misunderstanding, let us emphasize again: Our critique is not that the Quran contains the command to obey a prophet of God. All religions enshrine the principles to obey both civil and spiritual authorities. Religions do not promote anarchy but seek to establish order in society, and that necessarily needs obedience to those who are in a position of authority. The Bible exhorts believers to be obedient to the laws of the government (Romans 13) even though it may be a pagan government, and and it commands them to willingly follow their spiritual leaders (Hebrews 13:17), as not to make it difficult for them to do their duty. However, this obedience to human authorities, even spiritual authorities, is always conditional (Acts 5:29), never absolute. The point in this whole discussion is that in the Quran Muhammad is put on the same level as Allah, i.e. Muhammad's own word (outside of the Quran) is to be obeyed just as the word of Allah (in the Quran). The eternal destiny of the believers is made conditional upon whether they obey the messenger in everything. That is the aspect that constitutes deification and is therefore blasphemous.

There is another highly significant observation to be made. Pay careful attention to the wording in the first half of Sura 59:6-7, that was already quoted above. It does not say, "what Allah bestowed on the messenger," i.e. giving to Muhammad what properly belongs to God (and he can certainly give it to whomever he wants). Rather, the passage twice uses the word RESTORED, i.e. it properly belonged to Muhammad in the first place. Here the Muslim armies are conquering foreign cities (plural!) and countries and the Quran says that this is an action or process of "restoring back to Muhammad" what properly belongs to him, Muhammad, not Allah. That is incredible blasphemy, particularly when we compare this with the Biblical concept expressed in these passages:

The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Leviticus 25:23

The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers." Psalm 24:1-2

The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; The world and all it contains, You have founded them. Psalm 89:11

Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him. Jeremiah 27:6

You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all--you are the head of gold. Daniel 2:37-38

this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. Daniel 4:24-26

Returning to our examination of the quranic passages, we realize that the presented data is not fully explicit. The foregoing passages do not deify Muhammad in the sense that the word god or divine is applied to Muhammad. Nevertheless, we have seen quite clearly that Muhammad's position of authority is de facto the same as that of Allah, i.e. an individual believer has the duty to obey Muhammad exactly as he has the duty to obey Allah. If nothing else, these passages certainly lay the foundation that later Muslims would build upon in their veneration of Muhammad, causing them to be obsessed with their prophet which then led them to turn him into a god of sorts.

There is, in fact, one rather explicit reference that goes beyond being merely implicit in deifying Muhammad:

Surely We have sent thee as a witness, good tidings to bear, and warning, That you may believe in Allah and His Apostle and may aid him and revere him; and (that) you may declare his glory, morning and evening. S. 48:9

In this text, the nearest referent, the antecedent to the pronouns is not Allah, but Muhammad. In other words, this text is written in such a way that it is Muhammad who is revered and praised, as well as glorified!

The late Christian writer 'Abdallah 'Abd al-Fadi writes:

"This sentence is disrupted because of a sudden shift from addressing Muhammad to addressing other people. Apart from this, the accusative pronoun in ‘succour Him, and reverence Him’ refers, beyond doubt, to Muhammad, who was mentioned earlier, not to God as the English translator understood it. But ‘give Him glory’ refers to God. The entire verse is chaotic. The reader cannot be expected to understand its true meaning from the arrangement of words. It is kufr (‘unbelief’) to say ‘succour Him, and reverence Him, and that you may give Him glory at the dawn and in the evening’ about Muhammad, since glory should be given to God alone. It is also kufr to make such a statement with reference to God, since God almighty is not in need for succour or help!" (Is the Qur'an Infallible? [Light of Life, PO Box 13, A-9503 Villach, Austria], pp. 182-183)

G.F. Haddad acknowledges the confusion and admits that some, if not many, Muslims had no hesitation in attributing all the pronouns to Muhammad:

"That ye (mankind) may believe in Allah and His messenger, and may honor h/Him, and may revere h/Him, and may glorify h/Him at early dawn and at the close of day" (48:9). Al-Nawawi said that the scholars of Qur'anic commentary have given this verse two lines of explanation, one group giving the three personal pronouns "HIM" a single referent, namely, either Allah ("Him") OR THE PROPHET ("him"); the other group distinguishing between two referents, namely, the Prophet (SAWS) for the first two ("honor and revere him"), and Allah for the last ("glorify Him"). Those of the first group that said the pronouns ALL REFER TO THE PROPHET (SAWS) explained "glorify him" (tusabbihuhu) here to mean: "declare him devoid of inappropriate attributes and pray for him." (The Prophetic Title "Best of Creation"; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Another verse even claims that Allah will grant Muhammad a station of glory and praise:

And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a Station of Praise and Glory maqaman mahmoodan! S. 17:79 Y. Ali

And during a part of the night, pray Tahajjud beyond what is incumbent on you; maybe your Lord will raise you to a position of great glory. Shakir

The narrations assert that Muhammad will be granted this position on the last day:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar
The Prophet said, "A man keeps on asking others for something till he comes on the Day of Resurrection without any piece of flesh on his face." The Prophet added, "On the Day of Resurrection, the Sun will come near (to the people) to such an extent that the sweat will reach up to the middle of the ears, so, when all the people are in that state, they will ask Adam for help, and then Moses, and then Muhammad (p.b.u.h)." The sub-narrator added "Muhammad will intercede with Allah to judge amongst the people. He will proceed on till he will hold the ring of the door (of Paradise) and then Allah will exalt him to Maqam Mahmud (the privilege of intercession, etc.). And all the people of the gathering will send their praises to Allah. (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 553)

What this basically suggests is that Allah will cause all to seek Muhammad's intercession in order that the latter may become the object of the praise and glory of all the people!

Thus the Quran clearly provides the data which led Muslims into turning Muhammad into a semi-divine figure. This will become more evident in the following articles where we will see how Muslims cite some of these very same passages to defend their obsession and extreme love of Muhammad.

Sidenote: We must point out that Q. 17:79 does not expressly say that Muhammad will be given this station of praise since the text leaves some room for doubt:

And as for the night, keep vigil a part of it, as a work of supererogation for thee; IT MAY BE that thy Lord will raise thee up to a laudable station. Arberry

Let the reader notice that the text says that Muhammad MAY receive this honor, implying that it is not certain that he definitely will. Nevertheless, the hadith which we mentioned earlier does say that Allah will grant him this station even though this still raises other problems since there are narratives which deny that Muhammad will intercede for his followers (*).

Continue with Part 3.